The Nine Arch Bridge is a very photogenic highlight you should visit if you're visiting Ella in Sri Lanka. The town of Ella is located on the right side of the Hill Country between Badulla and Haputale. This town is favored by many travelers due to the beautiful landscape and the hikes you can undertake. Aside from all the backpackers, Ella is also a popular stop for families with kids that explore the country for a shorter time. It was still a holiday back in our country and the town was literally flooded with Dutch families that were doing a 2-week trip in the country. Anyway, let me tell you more about the bridge starting with a bit of history.
History of the bridge
During the British colonial period, a 24 meters high and 91 meters long bridge was built at Gotuwala between the Ella and Demodara train stations. Still locally known as ‘Ahas Namaye Palama’ meaning nine skies bridge, it's by most others known as the Nine Arch Bridge. The entire bridge is made from rock and bricks. The story goes that initially, they meant to build it with metal. But due to World War I all the steel and metal was reassigned for military purposes. So rock and bricks remained as the best alternatives.
The bridge is quite close to Ella. You can take a tuk-tuk there for 200 rupees. The bridge can be approached from either side of the railway, but the tuk-tuk can only reach the bridge all the way from one side. From the other side, you still have to hike around 15 minutes from where the tuk-tuk drops you off.
Typical Hill Country view (near our hostel)
Another option is to walk from Ella. From our homestay, the walk was around half an hour, but I think it's around 20 minutes from the center of Ella. We used the maps on our phone and the path was really easy to find. It's a beautiful walk through a dense forest/jungle with a few small tea plantations along the way. The path is going up and down a couple of times but the hike is definitely not difficult. Just take enough water and sunscreen with you since it can be hot, especially if you don't have a spot with shadow to wait for the train.
Waiting for the train
Most visitors gather around the bridge 1 hour before the train arrives. Among the visitors are also a lot of foreign people. An entire school class was paying a visit when we were there. Usually, the train is scheduled around 12.30 pm but it's quite often delayed. Just make sure you're on time anyway because it really sucks if you miss it. The bridge is literally just one huge bend in the train track, which makes this bridge so unique to visit. When the train is crossing the bridge it's really nice to see it bending over the full length of the bridge. A lot of people wait on the bridge. If you decide to do it as well you should at least be waiting on the long side of the curve for the train to pass. This way the bridge and the train are bending away from you which makes the view way better because it strengthens the arc form of the bridge.
The Nine Arch Bridge
There's the train! oh wait...
We chose to wait a little bit further away from the bridge. This way we could see the entire bridge from a distance including the lush green forest and plantations that surround it.
Here are some shots from our position. If you enjoy this type of scenery you should definitely check out some of my other blogs about Sri Lanka.
Fourth class tickets?
After the train passed by, most people left immediately. As did we. We took the same path back to Ella and were back around two (yes the train was delayed ;), almost an hour). Just in time before it started raining for the rest of the day!
The town of Ella
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